how many steps should you take a day
How many steps should you take a day to stay active? Learn about benefits of walking and how you can set realistic targets

As our lives become more sedentary and obesity numbers keep rising, being physically active every day has become increasingly important. And while most of us may not have the time or money for fancy gym memberships or private Pilates classes, walking is something we can all manage. 

But how many steps a day is considered active? You may have heard that 10,000 steps a day is the gold standard. While that’s still a good benchmark, it may take a while to reach that number, especially if you are just starting out. It’s best to start slow and incrementally increase your steps to reach that goal.

What are the health benefits of walking every day?

Studies have shown that people who walk anywhere between 7,500 to 10,000 steps per day can improve blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety

Walking is also a great way to shed pounds. Depending on your weight, walking 7,500 to 10,000 steps a day can burn anywhere between 250 and 600 calories a day. Since one pound of body fat equals about 3,500 calories, you could lose roughly one pound per week simply by walking an extra 10,000 steps every day. 

Before starting any exercise program, it’s best to consult your doctor, especially if you have conditions such as advanced knee or hip arthritis, severe heart disease, or severe lung condition.

How can I measure my physical activity?

Activity trackers record data regarding your activity levels, helping you work toward specific goals by reminding you when you haven’t been active enough and monitoring your progress. 

Examples of activity trackers include:

  • Pedometer: Worn over the waist. This portable device counts your steps by detecting the motion of the hips. It is clipped securely to a belt, pants, or a skirt just above the hip in line with the knee in a vertical position. 
  • Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin: Worn around the wrist. These devices record the number of steps you take and convert them into measurable algorithms. None of these devices are 100% accurate, however, with most being off by about 10% percent.

Most pedometers provide guidelines as per the 10,000-step protocol. You can, however, tweak your routine to clock 7,500 steps daily. Pedometers classify activity as follows:

  • Sedentary: Less than 5,000 steps daily
  • Low active: About 5,000 to 7,499 steps daily
  • Somewhat active: About 7,500 to 9,999 steps daily
  • Active: More than 10,000 steps daily
  • Highly active: More than 12,500 steps daily

You can increase your daily activity by 1,000 steps per day until you reach your goal (7,500 to 10,000).

What can I do to motivate myself to stay active?

Incorporating small changes to your routine can help you stay active and get you walking more each day:

  • Walk your dog: If you do not have a dog, walk your friend’s dog. Or you can volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter.
  • Go in person: Instead of sending a work email, walk to your colleague's desk.
  • Family outing: Go for a walk with your partner or kids every day.
  • Take the stairs: Instead of taking an elevator, take the stairs. 
  • Listen to music: Listening to a tune with a bouncy beat can make walking more enjoyable and motivate you to go faster. 
  • Park at a distance: Choose parking spots farther away from the entrance of wherever you’re going. If you take a bus, get off a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/15/2021
References
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10000-steps-a-day-or-fewer-2019071117305

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/10000-steps/art-20317391